Image: Michael L. Spafford

Michael L. Spafford

Partner, Litigation Department


Michael Spafford is a partner in the Investigations and White Collar Defense practice of Paul Hastings and is based in the firm’s Washington, DC office.

Mr. Spafford’s practice focuses on white-collar criminal defense, government investigations, regulatory enforcement, internal investigations, and related litigation. He has represented financial institutions, funds and other companies, as well as individual clients in numerous high-profile government investigations and parallel litigation involving alleged violations of the federal securities, commodities and banking laws, price fixing and collusion, fraud and manipulation, tax, accounting, trading offenses, and the False Claims Act. Mr. Spafford frequently represents clients before the DOJ, SEC, CFTC, FERC, FTC, and other federal and state government authorities.

Frequently recognized as a leading lawyer in White Collar Defense and Investigations, Mr. Spafford is ranked Band 1 by Chambers USA in Nationwide Derivatives Enforcement.  Mr. Spafford currently serves as the Chair of the ABA Business Law Section Committee on Derivatives and Futures Law.  He previously served as the Chair of the ABA Subcommittee on Innovative Digitized Products and Processes, including virtual currencies and block chain, and co-authored the ABA White Paper on Digital and Digitized Assets: Federal and State Jurisdictional Issues.


  • Chambers Global, Spotlight Attorney, USA Nationwide Derivatives Enforcement (2024)
  • Chambers USA, Nationwide Derivatives Enforcement (2023); Nationwide Derivatives (2022-2023)
  • Chambers USA, White Collar Crime & Government Investigations (District of Columbia) (2014-2016)
  • The Legal 500 USA, Civil Litigation/Class Actions: Defense (2021-2022)
  • The Legal 500 USA, Energy Regulation: Conventional Power (2021-2022)
  • The Legal 500, Energy Regulation: Power (2020, 2021)
  • The Legal 500, Antitrust – Civil Litigation/Class Actions: Defense (2020-2021)
  • The Legal 500, Litigation, Recommended Lawyer for White-Collar Criminal Defense (2015)
  • Best Lawyers, Derivatives and Futures (2007-2023), Lawyer of the Year for 2021 - Derivatives and Futures Law - Washington, D.C.
  • Best Lawyers, Criminal Defense: White-Collar (2023)
  • Best Lawyers, Qui Tam Law (2023)
  • Super Lawyers, Criminal Defense, Washington, DC (2012-2023)
  • Fellow of the American Bar Foundation


  • Duke University School of Law, J.D., 1983
  • State University of New York at Binghamton, B.A., 1980
  • Admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and  the State of New York, First Judicial Department; U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit; U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit; U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit; U.S. District Court, District of Columbia; U.S. District Court, District of Maryland; U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York; U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York; U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas; and the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas


  • A global financial institution in well-publicized, industry-wide cross-border investigations in several countries regarding potential irregularities in the setting of LIBOR interest rates, and related class actions.
  • Two former Barclays traders in connection with FERC investigation and enforcement action alleging manipulation of the California physical power markets to benefit related financial swaps. Obtained dismissal of Mr. Smith in a precedent-setting decision regarding FERC enforcement authority (FERC v. Barclays Bank PLC, No. 2:13-cv-02093, 2017 WL 4340258 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2017)), which led to a favorable Barclays settlement in which Ms. Levine paid no money, was not sanctioned, made no admissions, and all claims against her were dismissed.
  • Individuals in DOJ and CFTC “spoofing” investigations.
  • FX and ISDA Fix traders in DOJ and CFTC investigations and related class action litigation.
  • A global container carrier in connection with DOJ criminal antitrust investigation of the container-shipping industry.
  • A logistics company in connection with DOJ criminal antitrust investigation of fuel supplies to the US military in South Korea.
  • Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the National Futures Association (NFA) in connection with a review of NFA audits of Peregrine Financial Group.
  • Leading international camera and medical device maker in connection with global criminal and regulatory investigations of accounting irregularities and its restatement of financial statements, including its overall strategies relating to crises management, corporate governance, and management of criminal and other investigations in several countries.
  • An audit partner in connection with SEC investigation of allegedly fraudulent financial statements and audit report. Persuaded the SEC not to charge audit partner. Represented several other accounting firms and auditors in various SEC investigations of alleged securities fraud and financial misstatements.
  • Several traders at an international energy company in connection with the DOJ, CFTC, FTC, and other investigations of alleged manipulation of the Platts benchmarks and related trading of oil, gasoline, fuel oil, and distillates.
  • Money management firm in connection with a CFTC investigation of block trading of treasury futures options.
  • Officer of a medical device company in connection with DOJ and FDA investigation of alleged medical device defects and reporting violations.
  • Defense of the “IFCO” immigration-hiring case, resulting in the DOJ‘s dismissal of all felony charges against the company‘s Vice President for New Market Development.
  • Executives at multiple Japanese manufacturers in connection with DOJ criminal antitrust investigations of the auto-parts industry. Additionally, represented an executive at a European Air Cargo Company in connection with DOJ criminal antitrust investigations of air cargo industry.
  • Executives at several companies in connection with SEC investigations of restatements of financial statements and alleged securities fraud and insider trading.
  • Former General Counsel of an accounting firm in connection with federal investigation and prosecution of others concerning tax shelter and avoidance transactions.
  • A global financial institution in connection with an investigation by FERC Enforcement of alleged market manipulation concerning Lake Erie Loop Flow and allegedly circular trading in several ISO/RTO markets.
  • Trader at a Wall Street trading firm accused of manipulating PJM electricity markets.  After four years of investigation, FERC Office of Enforcement closed the matter without taking action against trader.
  • Hedge Fund in connection with the CFTC, FERC, and congressional investigations of the failure of Amaranth and its related trading.
  • Former British Petroleum trader in connection with DOJ and CFTC investigations of alleged manipulation of the propane market.
  • Executives and employees of Fannie Mae in connection with investigations by the DOJ, SEC, and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), and internal investigations by Special Committees of the Board of Directors, of allegations relating to financial statements, disclosures, and the use of special structured finance vehicles.
  • Numerous high-ranking Enron executives, professionals, and traders in connection with government investigations by dozens of government agencies, including the DOJ, SEC, CFTC, FERC, New York County District Attorney, Attorneys General of Connecticut and California, several United States Attorneys (including the offices in San Francisco and Seattle), and various congressional committees, as well as the investigations of the court-appointed examiner and other civil litigation involving Enron’s financial collapse.
  • A Big 4 accounting firm as co-lead trial counsel in two jury trials of actions brought by the State of West Virginia alleging fraud, negligence, conflicts of interest, and breaches of fiduciary duties arising out of the multimillion-dollar failure of Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia. Both trials resulted in defense verdicts.
  • Accountants, lawyers, and executives in connection with investigations by the DOJ, FDIC, and other banking authorities of alleged fraud and improprieties at several banks and savings and loan institutions in Texas, Virginia, Illinois, Arizona, and California.
  • Various government officials, and others in connection with investigations by the DOJ and the Office of the Independent Counsel concerning Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Americorp, the Department of the Interior, and related matters, as well as investigations by various congressional committees.


    Engagement & Publications

    Practice Areas


    Oil and Gas

    Antitrust and Competition

    Anti-Corruption and FCPA

    SEC Enforcement Defense and Regulatory Counseling


    Investigations and White Collar Defense


    LIBOR Transition

    Congressional Investigations

    White Collar Defense




    District of Columbia Bar

    New York Bar


    Duke University School of Law, J.D. 1983

    Binghamton University, State University of New York, B.A. 1980

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